Another Day At The Museum Part 4: Revisiting Nismo Omori Factory And Mata Ne, Japan!

After spending hours at the Nissan Guest Hall and Engine Museum - a lot more time than I had originally expected - it was way past time to head off to the main goal on day 4 of my Japan trip: Nismo Headquarters.

Nismo HQ, also known as Nismo Omori Factory after their original Tokyo location before they moved to Yokohama, is less than a mile's walk away from the Guest Hall on the very same street. There's a bus that you can take to avoid the hike but it was a nice day when I went and walking also meant I could see more of the area at a leisurely pace.

Omori is on the opposite side of the street from the Guest Hall so I decided to cross over once I left the plant gate, which gave me the opportunity to scope the outside of Yokohama Plant Area #2, the big building in the second image.

Unsurprisingly the parking lot was filled with various Nissans but sadly any hopes I may have had of seeing something sexy were quickly dashed since the most interesting vehicle there was this Nismo Note. I've mentioned before how I'd like a Nismo Note for an economical daily driver but a new Nismo R35 or a well-kept Silvia would have really given the parking area a lot more curb appeal.

Speaking of curb appeal, the Japanese are experts in that regard since even in an industrial port area like this there were spots of greenery and a general sense of cleanliness. Unlike in a western port area you didn't have to walk with a continuous sense of dread that you were about to get mugged, stabbed, or be the victim of a random industrial accident involving a shipping container, a drunk stevedore, and an abused capuchin monkey.

In this small parking area I did spy something sexy - yeah, that sweet Daihatsu Move is straight fire, I tell ya!

After a bit more walking I was finally in front of Nismo Omori Factory - a place as holy to Nissan performance fans as Mecca to Muslims, the Wailing Wall to Jews, and the nearest Zara store to your shopping-obsessed younger sister.

I'd been to Omori already back in 2017 when I was on the DSport Tokyo Auto Salon Tour so I knew what to expect when I got there. If you'd like to read about what that visit was like here's a link to that blog post.

Last time I went there was a Nismo Elgrand van parked outside. This time it was joined by a Nismo Fairlady Z and on their flanks was something new.

The Nismo Driving Academy was a program launched by Nissan at Fuji Speedway in April 2017 (a few months after my DSport Tour visit) where owners of Nismo's various performance cars can sign up and get high-performance driving instruction. The best part? Your instructors are Nissan's highly decorated team of factory drivers! The head cheese is former Super GT and FIA GT1 champion Michael Krumm while the instructor pool includes other former Super GT champions like Masataka Yanagida, Ronnie Quintarelli, Tsugio Matsuda, and even three-time Super GT and four-time Formula Nippon champ Satoshi Motoyama. This is basically like signing up for an Alfa Romeo driving academy and getting schooled by Kimi Raikkonen himself - although there would probably be more talking and less vodka getting passed around at the Nismo academy.

God, I would love to get to join the Nismo Driving Academy - but first I'd have to find a Z or R35 to rent, learn Japanese, and then resist the temptation to spend all my time pestering the instructors for autographs and usies.

Heading past the bright red entrance vestibule, the familiar sight of the R390 GT1 Le Mans car on the wall greeted me as I entered.

In 2017 Omori had three Nismo road cars and three race cars facing each other in the main gallery. They had a Nismo Note on display last time as well but the rest of the exhibit was different this time.

In the second slot was this Nismo Leaf. I have to say, it looks pretty snazzy in this white and black with red highlights color scheme but don't expect more juice from the powertrain - the tuning was focused on just the suspension, steering, and acceleration calibration rather than giving it more power.

Lastly they had this Nismo Serena which as you can see is a mini minivan for those who want to stand out from the other soccer moms or dads, I guess. By the way, you can enter the Nismo Driving Academy even if you own one of these more sedate Nismo vehicles - you don't have to own a full fire-breathing R35 or even a Z. But if you do enter with a Nismo Serena you're limited to just the basic stage 1 course - sorry soccer dads, no mad dorifto for you.

Much more interesting to me was this Nissan Primera race car run by Satoshi Motoyama in the Japanese Touring Car Championship. He retired from full-time racing earlier in 2019 and is now an advisor to Nissan's current Super GT program - and as I mentioned earlier, is one of the instructors for the Nismo Driving Academy.

Another of Motoyama's cars was two slots over - this 2007 Super GT Z from the last year the 350Z would be campaigned in GT500 before the brand-new R35 GT-R would take over.

The middle car would make my trip to Nismo really worth it though - the 1999 Pennzoil Nismo R34 Skyline GT-R. As you can see from the pic of the roof, this car was also driven by Motoyama-san and it says this was the 1999 championship winner. Unfortunately this wasn't one of the cars that earned him his three GT500 titles because he missed the second race at Fuji which meant his co-driver Erik Comas earned eight more points than he had and was declared the sole driver's championship winner that year. If it weren't for that one missed race Motoyama-san would have been a four-time GT500 champ.

This car is one of the most popular cars in Nismo's long racing history because of its championship-winning success and that gorgeous yellow and black livery. I actually built a plastic model of this car long ago as a teenager. When I went to Japan the first time in 2017 I saw its predecessor, the 1998 R33 car with the same color scheme, at the Zama heritage garage but this 1999 car wasn't there at the time. I much prefer the R34 to the R33 so seeing the R34 Pennzoil Nismo in the flesh finally was a really amazing moment.

Speaking of R34s, I was slightly disappointed to note that the Z-tune that's perennially on display was missing that day for some reason. They did have the 2016 Nismo GT500 GT-R on exhibit though. Of all the GT-Rs that have raced in GT500 the DTM-spec versions from 2014 onwards are my favorite in terms of looks and previously Omori would typically only display six cars total at a time so this unexpected seventh vehicle more than made up for the missing Z-tune.

I didn't have to go very far though to find an R34 to drool over because both the R33 and R34 Clubman demo cars were parked in the service bay. The Z-tune is without a doubt the ultimate collector's version among R34 road cars but for the ultimate driving version of an R34 from Omori the Clubman surpasses it. It takes the tech pioneered by the Z-tune in 2003 and adds more modern additions that weren't available at the time like carbon ceramic brakes and improved engine tuning. Best of all, anyone with the money can get a Clubman of their own built - as long as they can convince Omori to tackle the project.

I know I had to get away from the glass quickly because it suddenly got very tight in my pants.

The R32 Clubman was there too but was in the middle of getting some TLC.

In front of the store they had these two race engines on display. The one on the left is a GT500-spec R34 RB26 from the JGTC while the one on the right is a Group A-spec R32 motor. In case you're wondering why the R34 engine sits so much lower than the R32 version, that's because JGTC cars were rear-wheel drive only while Group A cars retained the roadgoing Skyline's AWD system, therefore the R32 engine has a big front differential housing underneath while the JGTC unit doesn't.

Just like at my last visit, if you wanted your very own lovingly custom-built Nismo motor you had several varieties to choose from with a range of power outputs and amount of souls you had to sacrifice to the Elder Gods in order to afford one. I'm already setting up my very own cult for that noble purpose.

These sweet titanium strut tower bars for the R32 through R34 were a bit easier on the pocket. I think I can get away with only five human sacrifices for one.

It would take an entire separate article to cover all the other awesome goodies that the Nismo shop had to offer this time so I'll have to stop here. I really wanted to look around more but it was well past lunchtime at this point and my stomach was about to demand me as a human sacrifice if I didn't pay some attention to it.

I looked around for a place to eat nearby and did find a shop that looked like a bento (Japanese lunch box) seller next to Nismo but they didn't have a sit-in dining area. It seemed like they catered to the factory workers in the area who would take their food back to their workplace. Since I didn't see a convenient place to take the food and sit down and I wasn't ready to sign up for a factory job just to do that, I headed to the nearby bus stop instead and grabbed a short ride to Tsurumi train station.

At Tsurumi I managed to find a nice restaurant with a picture menu that let me use my very limited Japanese to order a plate of scrumptious karaage  (Japanese fried chicken) without embarrassing myself by accidentally complimenting my server on her recent bout of dysentery.

After taking care of my bodily needs I still had plenty of time before my flight out of Japan was scheduled to leave at 1 am from Haneda Airport. To fill that time I'd decided to head to Yokohama's famous Minato Mirai seaside area and check out the view from the Landmark Tower observation deck.

The Landmark Tower used to be the tallest building in Japan from its completion in 1993 until 2012. Compared to the 2080 feet of Tokyo Skytree (that I visited on day 3 of my trip) the tower's 972 feet seems a lot less impressive but Skytree is a broadcast tower instead of a fully-occupied building like Landmark Tower, and with the seaside right next door I was still looking forward  to a stunning view.

We'd been to Minato Mirai, the seaside central business district where Landmark Tower is located, on my first trip to Japan after we had visited Omori Factory but that time we had gone to one of the local malls and hadn't had a chance to visit the tower. I love tall buildings and I'd always liked Landmark's distinct architecture so I wasn't about to pass up another chance to go there.

Getting there had been easy - it was only a single train ride from Tsurumi Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. Here you can see Sakuragicho station where you get off. The station is the long white building in the bottom left corner while in front of it with the curved facade is the Colette Mare mall.

There's lots to see and do in Minato Mirai if you have the time. In this shot you can see the Cosmo Clock ferris wheel, slightly hidden behind it is the Nissin Cup Noodle Museum, and to the right of the wheel is the Yokohama World Porters mall where we had lunch on my first trip here. The beautiful white building that's curved on one side in the middle is the Intercontinental Yokohama Grand hotel while to its left is the National Convention Hall of Yokohama. And that just barely scratches the surface of the attractions here - there's many other museums, a preserved sailing ship, several parks, other malls, and if you feel adventurous you can even take an amphibious bus tour and see if you can avoid drowning.

From the north side of Landmark Tower you can see Nissan Headquarters - it's the building slightly to the left of center, located behind the small building with vertical stripes and between the one with the sloping roof on the left and the oval Fuji Xerox building on the right.

I could have spent hours more taking in the sights in Yokohama but the anime nerd in me decided I had to make one last trip to Akihabara before saying farewell to Japan. After paying a visit to the Landmark Tower's souvenir shop to grab some trinkets I hopped the train back to Shinagawa Station and from there went on to Akiba.

My main goal with heading back to Akihabara was scoring a few more anime-related collectibles but I didn't forget about cars entirely. Although Akiba is mainly known for anime and video games, like I mentioned in my Day 3 post, it's also a great place for some carspotting. Vintage vehicles like this Fairlady Z are a very rare sight on the street in Japan since the strict vehicle inspection standards and rust-friendly climate make it more difficult. As you can see, I wasn't the only one caught gawking!

Another rare sight are USDM vehicles like this GMC Yukon Denali. They do have a small but fervent cult following in Japan though, in the same way we go gaga over imported metal like Skylines here in the USA.

Thanks to the tips my new friend Gamme gave me the previous day I wandered the back streets of Akiba and found some really cool shops I wouldn't have checked out otherwise. Before too long it was dark already so I decided it was time to make my way back to my hotel in Shinagawa where my bags were waiting. But first I had to get some dinner.

The shop on the left had some catchy signage so I wandered up and broke my Japanese ticket restaurant cherry.

Ticket restaurants are a uniquely Japanese thing. They operate similarly to the self-serve ordering screens you now see popping up inside fast food joints like McDonald's in the US but ticket restaurants have been around for much, much longer. Instead of ordering with a person at a counter you go to this ATM-like machine, make a selection from the menu, pay at the machine, and it spits out a two-part ticket.

You give one part of the ticket to a staff member at the counter and then keep the stub. In many of these restaurants you then wait until your order is called to pick it up but at this place they obviously were used to dealing with ignorant foreigners like yours truly because the machine had an English option on the screen, a staff member stood by in case you needed help, and then took your ticket and guided you to a seat. He then took your food to you once it was ready.

Be careful not to lose your ticket stub by the way because Japanese custom dictates that if you do so you will owe the restaurant's chef one favor that you can't refuse, whether it's paying an exorbitant amount of money, washing the dishes, or massaging his bunions for three hours straight. I'm probably shitting you about that but it's still not a good idea to lose your stub before you can shove your tasty vittles down your gullet.

The hamburger steak I got wasn't just freshly-cooked and totally delicious, it was inexpensive (by Tokyo standards at least), as was the big mug of Coke that I got with it. Sadly there was no English signage in front to make this restaurant easy to find again but I took a photo and tried to remember the street it was on for future visits to Akihabara.

Oh, and they were obviously used to otaku like me doing a lot of shopping since the staffer helpfully pointed out the big basket underneath the counter where I could put the swag I was carrying around for safe keeping while I ate. It's not expected by the way to leave a tip in Japan no matter how good the service is. In fact, they'll generally give you back any money you try to offer as such with a polite insistence. Great service like at this place is common in Japan though so time and again you'll be disappointed you can't offer a monetary reward like we're used to doing in Western countries. It's ironic given how mediocre customer service can be in the States but it's a reflection of how in Japan good service is just expected without needing to incentivize someone. 

The same great service awaited me at the Keikyu EX Inn when I returned to pick up my bags. The counter staff swiftly gave me back my luggage, I squeezed in my last-minute purchases, and called a taxi for me when I was ready.

I was looking forward to seeing my family again in the Philippines but the drive to the airport gave me ample time to start missing Japan already. I resolved to return but for an even longer visit in the future and I hope you'll be joining me here again on when that time comes around! Until then, mata ne!


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